Whisper 2.07

Dear Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Things are going great! The kids are both A students, both smart, and both staying out of trouble, for the most part.

They’re in high school now. Patches is going through a bit of an awkward phase–at least I think it’s a phase! She keeps dropping dishes, bumping into things, and tripping on the treadmill. I tell her it’s probably from growing so quickly.

Bo has become a daredevil–no surprise there. He’s so gruff on the outside, but inside, he’s sweet as ever, and our family, plus Zoey and Roxy, are the most important things to him.

With the kids growing up and everything going so well, I’m starting to think that we’re ready to head to college, Riley and me.  Bo and Patches say they’ll be able to hold down the fort while we’re gone, and Mara says she’ll look in on them.

I’ve started preparing. I’ve been fixing everything. It’s still a little early, but I’ve waited so long for this that just doing something related to leaving for college–like making sure the house is in good condition–feels productive and helps me not feel so antsy to just go!


Patches had her sweet sixteen party in the snow. Oh, Mom! She’s so adorable!


You’d be so proud of Bo, too. He’s a handsome leaf, and so smart.


Of course, he’s still crazy as ever. We were talking at Patches’ party, and he started saying something about missiles.

“How much do you think they can carry?” he asked.


“Never mind,” he said. “I’ll look it up in the science lab.”

I don’t know who his science teacher is this semester, but I hope we have teacher conferences before Riley and I leave for college.


“Do you think Bo means well?” Patches asked me the other day.

“What? Patches, you’re his IF. If anybody would know, you’d know!”

“Yes,” she said, “but you’re his sister. I’m just looking for a reality check.”

I told her not to worry. He’s got crazy ideas, but deep down, he’s still the same little Bo we’ve always loved. Just bigger and more handsome.


“Do televisions emit radiation?” Patches asked me when I was fixing the TV.

I had no idea. “It’s turned off while I’m fixing it,” I told her. “I think I’ll be OK.”


Bo will still sometimes hum his weird song and then destroy Patches’ snowmen or snow angels or kick over the flamingo.


But then the next minute, there he is, having a Snow Tea party, with the sweetest grin on his face.


“He’s just Bo,” I tell Patches. “We’ve all got all these sides to us. Bo’s sides just happen to be a little extreme.”

Mom, Riley’s been a little bit mysterious lately. The other afternoon, when I came into the kitchen, she hastily put her phone away.

“I was thinking of going out. Is that OK? Do we need anything from the store?”


“Go! Have fun! I just went shopping, so the fridge is stocked. Where you going?”

“Just out!” she said.

She had the biggest grin when she got on her bike and rode off in the snow.


She was gone for a few hours, and she came back home with an even bigger grin.

“Did you have fun?” I asked her.

“Mmmm hmmm,” she replied, still smiling.


“Where’d you go?”

“Oh, just out to the parking lot by the theater.”

“Did you see a movie?”

“Um, no.”

“Were you alone?”

“Not exactly,” she replied. “Argus was there. You know, Argus Brown.”


“Oh,” I replied. “What did you do?”

“We just talked,” she said.


I poured us some tea. I wanted to know everything, but I also didn’t want pry, and I felt like I’d already asked so many questions.

As Riley sipped her tea, I got the idea that she really wanted to tell me about it, but she wasn’t sure how.

“Is it OK if I keep asking you questions?” I asked her.

She broke out into a huge grin. “Please do!” she said. And she blushed.

It turns out that Argus was in his werewolf form, and she really liked it! She said she thought about getting into her doll form, but then she remembered how sometimes dogs would grab ragdolls in their mouths and shake them, so she thought maybe she wouldn’t.

When I asked her what they talked about, she told me that Argus confessed a fear of having his heart broken.

“Well,” I said, “if there’s one thing you’re not, that’s a heart-breaker. You’re loyal as a snowfall.”

“Is a snowfall loyal?” she asked.

“Do we need to ask that when it’s snowed every day for three months? Just like it does every winter? Point is, you’re loyal.”

“That’s what I told him!” she said.


She said it was the best date ever, very romantic.

They built snowmen.


Lots and lots of snowmen.


They made two igloos.

“Did you use them?” I asked.

“Oh, no!” Riley said. “We just built them, for something to work on together.”


“But you had a good time? And Argus was nice?”

“Argus was a dream,” Riley said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Can you believe it? I’m always happy. But this. This felt like heaven.”


Mom, it looks like Riley is in love.

I wonder how the romance will fare as a long-distance relationship. Won’t be long before we’re heading off to college.

Don’t worry–I’ll still write! And of course, you’ll still be here to haunt the place. (Just kidding!)



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Whisper 1.14


Dante called me for a date, and this time, since I wasn’t in the middle of anything, I said yes.

Riding my bike there, I think about his face. Actually, I think about the veins that line his temples. They’re so cool. Sometimes, I can see his pulse beating through them.

We meet in the meadow outside the lounge.

“I’ve been looking at rings,” Dante says. “There’s one in particular. It used to belong to my grandmother. A simple setting: a diamond in a plain gold band.”


“It sounds beautiful,” I say. “I’m not really into jewelry, but if I were, a nice simple setting would be my choice.”

Dante’s gold eyes shine.


“Do you really have no idea what I’m hinting at?” he asks. “Marriage? I mean, not right away, of course, but sometime. I’m actually starting to think about it. Are you?”

I’m taken aback. “Oh. Um. Hypothetically, maybe.”


We play frisbee for a while, and I think back to my frisbee games with Shea. Frisbee was never romantic with Shea–it was a sport, something I might do with a cousin or a best friend.

But with Dante? Who knew that frisbee could be so romantic?


The night is very cold. It will probably frost, and my garden will return to dormancy, even though it’s spring.

We head inside to warm up.

While I’m relaxing in the rocking chair, I review my feelings for Dante. I really like him. I think I want him to be my first. I’m not freaked out that he’s already thinking about marriage. I can see myself living a life with him. It feels right.


Another day, another date. We’re meeting at the Spring Festival.

I keep having to remind myself it’s spring. It’s so cold! And I haven’t seen the sun for weeks. But inside, I’ve got all these spring-like feelings swirling around.


Dante makes room for me under his umbrella. I’m close enough to see the veins on his temple. They’re pulsing.


We decide to do all the romantic things, like try out the love machine.


When Dante meets me there, I see he’s had his face painted. It’s clouds and a rainbow, traced right across the veins of his right temple.

The machine spits out a poem about the earth passing away, and people are no more, and yet, our love, mine and Dante’s, remains.

He seems inexplicably happy, clapping his hands and laughing.


We go back to my place. I stick the bike in the trunk, and climb into the car next to him. I can’t help but feel guilty about all the gas we’re using. I wish he’d ridden a bike there. But since we can’t fit two on my bike, and he’d be driving anyway, I try to let go the guilt.

Looking at the cloud and rainbow painted on his face helps me focus on our innocence.


He grabs me in his arms as soon as we’re inside.


And then, we head into the bedroom to do what I’ve been dreaming of even before he got his face painted.


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New World Symphony: In Love

When Jeffrey woke from his nap, his first thought was to call Floyd Cloud, the yogi, to see if he wanted to come over and hang out.

“Oh, I see,” said J. P. “You’re still busy… No, that’s OK. I understand… Yeah, sure. I’ll call back. OK, then.”


How long do I have to wait before I call again? Jeffrey wondered. He was surprised to feel this way. He’d never felt like this about anyone before.


Somehow, he always assumed that he was like his uncle Alder, not interested in romance, content to spend his life pursuing interest and hobby. But he really felt himself drawn to Floyd Cloud. He wanted to be with him.

I guess it just took meeting the right person, he thought.


OK, he was going to call back.

“You’re still busy?”

“Yeah,” said Floyd. “I’m really sorry! It’s this yoga thing. See, at the community center, we’ve got these extended times when we’re serving. So this is my session. But I really want to see you.”


“You do?” J. P. asked.

“Yeah, babe,” said Floyd. “I really do. I meant it when I said I feel a connection with you. I want to spend more time with you.”

That’s strange, thought J. P. when he closed the call. That’s how I feel, too. But we just met. We’ve had, what, three conversations, and most of those were on the phone when he was telling me he was busy.

He called back.


“Are you still busy?”

Floyd laughed. “Yeah. Tell you what. Why don’t I just quit my job?”


“No!” J. P. said. “Don’t be nuts. I can wait. It’s just… I’ve been waiting all my life, and I don’t want to wait much longer. But I can wait. Finish your class.”


After breakfast, J. P. realized, If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.

He called a meeting of the club at the community center, and since Floyd was just finishing up his brain boosting class there, he was able to join them.


While Jaclyn shared the recipe for mead-calendula porridge (known for its energy-clearing properties), Floyd and J. P. fell into a silent conversation of their own.


This was their second time to be together, face-to-face. And Floyd’s eyes were just as deep as J. P. had remembered. His gaze let him in.


Sugar noticed what was passing between her nephew and the yoga instructor. Good for him! she thought. She knew love was worth waiting for, when it’s with the right person.


J. P. and Floyd headed in for a steam. They both felt too shy to even talk.


After the steam, they wandered into the meditation room.

“I think I’ll put on some clothes!” said J. P.


Fully dressed, it was a little easier to be in the same room together.

“Wanna meditate?” suggested Floyd.

Meditating with someone as skilled and focused as Floyd helped J. P. reach new heights of concentration. He felt weightless, as if his energy body were mobilizing around him.


Hours later, when J. P. headed home for a shower and a snack, Floyd remained deep in meditation.


By the time he got home, though, J. P. knew: he wanted something more with Floyd.

He called him up for a date, and to his surprise, Floyd accepted.


Floyd looked irritated when he arrived.


In fact, he looked downright angry.


“You OK?” J. P. asked.

“Yes. I was so deep in meditation. It’s hard to be interrupted.”


“Look,” said J. P. “I’m no yogi. But from what I understand, the purpose of meditation is to develop inner silence, concentration, space, and flexibility, right? And if so, then shouldn’t an actual yogi, one who is practiced in meditation, be flexible enough to respond when new things come up?”


“Whoa!” said Floyd. “You are absolutely right.”

He took a deep breath.

“Not bad, J. P.” he said. “Good insight, babe.”


“And anyway,” said J. P. “Hey! I’m glad to see you!”


In fact, they were both so glad to see each other that they still felt shy. They sat across the room from each other for a while, just grinning.


Then Floyd could wait no longer.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked, as he came over to the sofa where J. P. sat.


They talked, telling each other about their childhoods. Floyd had grown up an only child to a single mother. His mother was a yogi, too, and they’d traveled during most of his childhood, following the seminars that she gave up and down the coast. She was something of a celebrity, and Floyd had enjoyed the freedom and independence of the overlooked child of someone well-known and respected. His mother was aloof but affectionate, in a careless, detached way. And one thing this upbringing had taught Floyd was that family was important to him. Sometimes, you crave most that which you’ve never really had.

J. P. had family aplenty, and Floyd said that he could sense that from him.

“You’ve got this deep sense of belonging,” Floyd said. “I picked up on that the first time I saw you. It really draws me in.”

“Maybe you could belong with me,” J. P. said, bashfully.


“You mean, like your boyfriend?” laughed Floyd.

“Yeah,” said J. P., with shy excitement.


“Hell, yeah!” said Floyd.

“Woot!” screamed J. P.



“Look, babe,” said Floyd later as they looked at the selfie they took. “This is us. We’re a couple.”

“Yeah,” said J. P. “Who’d a thunk it!”

For a behind-the-scenes look at the events of the last few chapters, read “Author’s Gossip.”

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New World Symphony: In Health

The popularity of J. P.’s Family Emporium and Art Gallery sparked a Boho revival in Magnolia Promenade. A local nonprofit took over the abandoned store space at the Roadstead and converted it into a community wellness center.


Living right across the street, J. P. was one of the first to visit, and he enjoyed it so much that he practically moved in the first weekend it opened.


The open space had been divided into areas for different functions: a yoga studio; a juice bar; a dance area, complete with DJ booth; reflexology and massage areas; workout space; steam room; and a meditation room.


J. P. was pleased to see some new faces there.

“I’ve seen you around,” he said to Jaclyn after yoga class, “but I don’t think we’ve ever been introduced.”

“I know your sister’s family,” Jaclyn said. “I’m in Cypress’s garden and wellness club, and your niece and I are a special friends.”


Of course, J. P. was also delighted when family and old family friends stopped by.

“Mom,” he said, when Redbud showed up, “I’m struck by genius! I’m going to start a wellness club. We’ll call it ZenPines.”


J. P. loved the treadmill right by the front door. It was perfect for seeing who came in. Miss Penguin arrived and promptly changed into a robe for her massage appointment.

And Wade, one of the old park boys that J. P. had grown up with, showed up, too. J. P. and Wade were so glad to see each other, they gave each other big hugs.

“Man, how’ve you been?” J. P. asked. “It’s been forever!”

“Life’s really good,” Wade said. “I am so stoked about this new center!”


Miss Penguin, back in the massage area, was stoked about the center, too. The massage therapist had magic in his hands!


After a yoga class, an individual yoga session, and a session on the treadmill, J. P. was starving. He was surprised to see that Jaclyn was tending bar.


“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I’m a mixologist! That’s what I do. I like it, though. Especially here! I’ve offered to take any shifts that open up. I love the way it feels.”

“If you like how it feels here, maybe you’d like to join ZenPines. It’s my club, and it’s all about wellness, and this is where we hang out.”

Jaclyn was in. “I’ve always wanted to be in a wellness club!” she said. “Well, I already am, since Greenies, your sister’s club has a wellness component, but I can be in both, right?”

“Of course!” J. P. said. “You can share with us what you learn from Greenies!”


Being part of the club, Jaclyn decided to take advantage of the slow times at the bar by getting some reflexology.

For someone with hobbit ancestry, footwork brings special benefits: there’s just so much surface to work on, and the foot-mind-spirit connection for a hobbit-elf is very strong.


With hobbit-sized feet, Jaclyn had more surface area for tickling, too.


“Hey, man, you want to join the club?” J. P. asked Wade as they made their way into the next yoga class.

“Do I? Are you kidding?” asked Wade. “I’ve waited all my life to join a wellness club, and if it’s your club, the coolness factor just got raised exponentially.”

The instructor for the evening class came in, and J. P. felt his gaze drawn to him. There was something about his energy that J. P. found resonating with feelings inside of him.


After class, they began to talk. Floyd Cloud, the instructor, was inspired by J. P.’s club and was excited when J. P. asked him if he wanted to join.

Floyd began to discuss yoga and energy, and soon the conversation veered into tantric yoga.

“I could show you what I’m talking about,” Floyd said. “We could see if the steam room is empty, and if so, there’s a few partner poses we could practice.”


It sounded good to J. P. In fact, it sounded amazing. He’d been aware of his own energy all his life, but he’d never really found anyone that he wanted to share it with completely, until now. The idea of tapping into the energy of the second chakra and sharing it with Floyd sounded like something that just might add a new dimension of wonderfulness to J. P.’s life.


Jaclyn watched them walking by. She was feeling pretty sweet herself, after her reflexology treatment, but she had a feeling that J. P. and Floyd might be on their way to heightened sweetness. Good for them, she thought, wondering for a second who else was in the ZenPines club.


As they reached the steam room, a voice said over the loudspeaker:

Ready to boost your concentration, focus your energy, and experience bliss? Come to Floyd Cloud’s Energy for You yoga class, now starting in the Yoga Space.

“Dang,” said Floyd. “I’m gonna have to to take a rain-check, babe. You think maybe you and me can try this out some other time?”


J. P. felt disappointed, of course. He’d only waited his whole life to share that part of himself with someone else. But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth waiting for, he told himself.


After meditation, he found Aunt Sugar and Guadalupe visiting near the lockers.

“Shug!” he said. “Did you hear about my club? ZenPines! Want to join?”


“Oh, yeah!” Sugar said. “Count me in!”


Sugar and J. P. sat together in the alcove.

“Who else are you thinking of asking to join the club?” Sugar asked.

“I’m not sure!” said J. P. “We’ve got you, Wade–remember Wade?–Jaclyn, and Floyd Cloud, yoga guy. You wanna ask Ren?”


“Let’s wait and save a few spaces for folks that ask to join. How’s that sound?”

“That sounds great!” said J. P. “That way, we can attract people who really want it for what it offers, not just because they’re friends or family.”


J. P. waited for Floyd’s class to finish, but it was a long class, and J. P. was beat. He’d been meditating and yogaing and running and talking for what felt like days now, and he really had to get home and get some sleep.


As soon as he crossed the street and reached his own walk, though, he couldn’t resist. He had to call Floyd to see if maybe he wanted to come over so he could show him those yoga moves they’d talked about.


“OK,” J. P. said. “You’re busy? I get that. But when your shift is over? You wanna come over and hang out then? No pressure, I was just thinking maybe…”

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